Love in Truth and in Action

May 8, 2012

Love in Truth and in Action:
The Legacy of St. Dunstan’s University
Homily delivered by Bishop Richard Grecco at the UPEI Graduation Mass on the 5th Sunday of Easter 2012

“Little children, let us love, not in word or in speech, but in truth and in action” – 1John 3:18

In this simple sentence Jesus connects the imperative of Christian life; that is, love with the search for truth and action.  The three are inseparable especially in the field of education.

Let’s first take a look at love in the pursuit of truth.

In the Psalms we read “Teach us goodness, knowledge and discipline”( Psalm 119:66,68)  In other words, learning is more than memorizing facts, absorbing information and acquiring skills for the sake of employment.  It is about the formation of the individual person.  Besides a utilitarian element in higher learning there is the element of virtue, moral fibre or character; the challenge of freedom that shapes human responsibility; the expanding horizon of knowledge that challenges the search for truth.

This distinction makes a significant attitudinal difference for the teacher; a difference easily illustrated with a simple question.  “What do you teach?”  Some would answer “I teach math; I teach science or I teach literature”; while others might answer “I teach undergrads or I teach grads or I teach high school students.  The latter group of teachers focus on the person as the subject they teach.

Intuitively Catholics sense that the human subject; that is, the “personal” perspective on learning and life keeps us in touch with reality.   The reason is that reality includes God, and the human heart in the pursuit of truth. In this regard, Pope Benedict has written:

“The Word of God makes us change our concept of realism: the realist is the one who recognizes in the word of God the foundation of all things. This realism is particularly needed in our own time, when many things in which we trust for building our lives, things in which we are tempted to put our hopes, prove ephemeral. Pope Benedict xvi Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, #10’.  See Also John Paul ii:Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human, a desire to know the truth – in a word to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth, about themselves. (cf Ex. 33:18; Ps.27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn. 14:8; 1Jn. 3:2)Pope John Paul II Sept. 1998. Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio  Almost identical with John Paul’s idea is the motto of St. Dunstan’s University: Ex eodem fonte fides et scientia, from the same source Faith and Knowledge.

The Catholic tradition sometimes calls this idea of education,  ‘integral human development’ (Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate #11, 14,76); a phrase that refers first to the growth of each person’s full potential, physical, mental, emotional intellectual and spiritual and second  to the personal integration of goodness, knowledge and discipline at the service of the common good of society. The dynamic of integral human development is founded on the Word of God.  From the beginning St. Dunstan’s University and the Diocese collaborated to hand on this realistic perspective on learning and life.  It reflects John’s thought in the second reading about love in truth.

Some believe that Universities generally have become bastions of relativism, indifference and agnosticism, but the SDU Board and this Bishop, choose not to shield the younger members of the Catholic family from the atmosphere of the University.  As Archbishop Diarmud Martin of Dublin puts it, “Faith must be nurtured and protected, but within real life.  In today’s world, a strong faith can only develop within the public square in a challenging debate and dialogue with the realities of life and progress, with the physical and the human sciences, and indeed with the concrete realities and experiences of the individuals and the interactions of individuals who make up society.”  (The Tablet 14March 2009)

This quote accurately describes the context of the relationship between the SDU Board of Directors and UPEI.  Is not the SDU Board contributing a unique intellectual legacy in collaboration with UPEI?   Is not the mission of the SDU Board to reach out beyond the campus and into the wider community of PEI?

Enough said about the connection between love and the pursuit of truth.  The second point of our reflection, “Little children, let us love one-another… in truth and in action” concerns love in action.

Action in education- to state the obvious- is expensive, especially at the post- secondary level. In this regard the SDU Board has shown remarkable generosity of time, talents and treasures. Judicious allocation of these human resources in the Bible is called Stewardship.

“A steward is a servant entrusted for a time with the goods of the Master.  The steward uses but does not own these goods, and must eventually give an account to the Master for the way they have been cared for and made fruitful.” ( T. Collins, “Stewardship: “Well done good and faithful servant”)   To the faithful who were living in Corinth St. Paul writes,  “.. it is required of good stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 1Cor.4:2  St. Peter writes in his first Letter, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received”  1Peter 4:10  (See also  Luke 12:42; Luke 161-8; 1Cor. 4:1; 1Cor 9:17).

The SDU Board exercises its Stewardship by allocating the financial resources with which it has been entrusted.   Derived originally from the dedicated labour and collaboration of the Diocese and St. Dunstan’s University, we believe all good things ultimately come from God.

Two hundred thousand dollars in scholarships and bursaries are awarded annually to UPEI students by the SDU Board.  The Stewardship of the SDU Board funds a visiting scholar of Catholic Studies offering five courses a year in the Department of Religious Studies which are offered to all students. Through the Diocese of Charlottetown the SDU Board sponsors on Campus minister for Campus Ministries.

Beyond the UPEI Campus, the SDU Board reaches into the wider community through a series of Annual Lectures. It maintains a heritage building on Great George known as SDU Place.  It is a multi-purpose complex housing retired priests, a rectory and offices for St. Dunstan’s Basilica.  It also serves as head office for the SDU Board.   I might add it also serves as a most beautiful venue for the Bishop’s Levee on New Year’s Day.  The diligent Stewardship of the SDU Board offers generous subsidies for the education of adults, teens and children in the fields of liturgy, youth ministry, catechetics, priestly formation and vocations in collaboration with the Diocese of Charlottetown.

As I began this reflection by quoting the Reading from John, “let us love in truth and in action” so I conclude.   The legacy of St. Dunstan’s University reflects both dimensions of John’s exhortation.

First, based on faith and reason the Catholic Tradition bestows an intellectual passion for higher education in the public square that is realistic and strives for the integral formation of the person.

Second, through its generous distribution of time, talent and treasures the Stewardship of the SDU Board has born witness to love in action on campus and throughout the Province of Prince Edward Island.